Blue Buffalo, a pet food manufacturer headquartered in Wilton, Connecticut, announced a recall due to illnesses in dogs that was traced to the use of a variety of Blue Buffalo dog food. In this Letter from The Blue Buffalo Company they try to minimize the issue, as most companies would, and say “While the potential of increased Vitamin D presents no serious health risk, and any negative reaction to these products has been confined to a very small segment of the canine population who appear to be sensitive to higher levels of Vitamin D…” – sounds a little like corporate spin to me. First of all, vitamin D hypervitaminosis results in hypercalcemia, which can lead to cardiac arrest and death, and second, how many animals are suffering from the effects of being fed these excess levels of vitamin D? Only a limited number of reactions were diagnosed properly and reported by responsible veterinarians, but that doesn’t mean thousands of animals haven’t been affected that we will never know about, or that thousands of animals are not now on medications for hyperparathyroidism or renal disease, both of which can also produce symptoms of hypercalcemia!
Since July 2010 there were reports from veterinarians across the country of dogs suffering from hypercalcemia, or elevated levels of calcium in their blood. Symptoms included an increased thirst and urination, weight loss, loss of appetite and signs of kidney damage. Samples were sent to the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (DCPAH) at Michigan State University and a series of 16 test results from dogs were indicative of hypercalcemia related to excessive intake of vitamin D. This is a rather uncommon occurrence that can be linked to excessive dietary intake of vitamin D or ingestion of rodenticide containing vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) as the principal ingredient. Endocrinologists soon found a common factor: all 16 dogs whose samples were tested had very high levels of vitamin D in their blood and were being fed Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken.
An excess of vitamin D causes abnormally high blood concentrations of calcium, which can cause overcalcification of the bones, soft tissues, heart and kidneys. It can also damage the kidneys, produce kidney stones, cause hypertension and in severe cases result in coma and cardiac arrest. While no deaths have been reported at this time, since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the liver and other tissue, it can take weeks or months for elevated vitamin D levels in the body to return to normal even after the source of excess vitamins is removed.
Consumers should be aware that the vitamins used in most brands of commercial pet foods are synthetic. Synthetic vitamins are more closely related to drugs and have more of a drug effect on the body. They can also be dangerous, as we have seen here. It would be very difficult to create hypervitaminosis in the body from a natural source because the body can easily digest, absorb and metabolize a natural substance and then eliminate what is not used. However, with synthetics, hypervitaminosis can be created quite easily, especially with a fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin D. There is a report on the test effects of vitamin D in 500 human pregnancy cases. All the women given synthetic vitamin D developed calcified and diseased kidneys while women given natural vitamin D had no observable changes in the kidneys.
The type of vitamin D supplement used in Blue Buffalo dog food is listed as vitamin D3 Supplement. Pet food manufacturers add these synthetic vitamins to their foods because it is an easy and inexpensive way to accomplish meeting, what they view as, the nutritional needs of animals and also to satisfy the nutritional levels established by AAFCO (Association Of American Feed Control Officials). However, we have always maintained at The Pet Health and Nutrition Center, that it is better to get your nutrition from whole food sources! We recommend raw foods and whole food vitamins first, as the best way to feed your animal, and then accommodate our customers’ needs as far as budget or other concerns when we discuss dehydrated, canned and kibble pet food diets with them. This recall is a good example of why we focus so strongly on real, whole foods to feed your dogs, cats, birds and other pets. This recall validates all of our efforts. There was no compelling reason for us to bring in Blue Buffalo pet food. It did not meet our standards for a variety of reasons, so why bring in a middle-of-the-road pet food when there are better ones out there? Retailers that stock just any pet food in an effort to gain the most foot traffic will always put themselves at a higher risk of being involved in product issues. We stayed away from this food and are not involved in this recall!
Everyone here at The Pet Health and Nutrition Center hopes that all the animals involved in this recall return to health as soon as possible!